POLITICS: PennAve

How Chris Christie's bridge scandal unfolded

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Politics,New Jersey,Chris Christie,PennAve,Bridge Scandal

Aug. 13, 2013 – Bridget Kelly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's deputy chief of staff, emails David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” she writes. “Got it,” he responded.

Sept. 6, 2013 – Wildstein orders the authority to close two of three access lanes between Fort Lee, N.J., and the bridge.

Sept. 9, 2013 – The Port Authority shuts down the lanes, causing a massive traffic jam. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich contacts the Port Authority about an “urgent matter of public safety in Fort Lee.” Christie's aides don't respond. The closings continued for four days.

Sept. 10, 2013 – Sokolich contacts Bill Baroni, Christie's top man at the Port Authority, saying children couldn't get to school on time because of gridlock. “Help please,” Sokolich pleaded. “It's maddening.” Wildstein dismissed Sokolich's concern, joking, “They are the children of Buono voters,” a reference to Christie's Democratic campaign opponent, Barbara Buono.

Sept. 12, 2013 – Sokolich writes to Baroni again asking if the closings were intended as punishment. “My frustration now is trying to figure out who is mad at me,” Baroni quoted the mayor saying.

Sept. 13, 2013 – Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, orders the lanes reopened, suggesting the closings may not even be legal.

Sept. 16, 2013 – The Port Authority, which had no advance warnings about the closings, announces that the lanes were closed for a traffic study.

Oct. 2, 2013 – New Jersey Assemblyman and Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, a Democrat, launches a committee investigation, the first of what became a series of regional, state and possibly federal investigations into the incident.

Nov. 5, 2013 – Christie is re-elected in 22-point landslide. He wins 55 percent of Fort Lee's vote.

Nov. 25, 2013 – Baroni testifies to New Jersey's Transportation Committee that Wildstein ordered the closures and that it was mistake that no one at the authority or in Fort Lee was warned ahead of time.

Dec. 2, 2013 – Christie denies any involvement by his office, joking at a press conference, “I worked the [orange] cones. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones.”

Dec. 6, 2013 – Wildstein resigns his $150,000-a-year authority job “to pursue other opportunities.” He said he planned to quit anyway but moved it up because the bridge controversy had “become a distraction.” Christie's spokesman praises Wildstein's service to New Jersey and the authority.

Dec. 9, 2013 – Port Authority chief Foye testifies before the Transportation Committee and contradicts Baroni's earlier testimony on what happened. Committee Chairman Wisniewski calls on Baroni to resign.

Dec. 10, 2013 – The Port Authority's inspector general launches its own investigation.

Dec. 12, 2013 – Chairman Wisniewski expands his probe, issuing seven more subpoenas, including one to Wildstein, seeking related documents and emails.

Dec. 13, 2013 – Baroni resigns. Christie said he expected Baroni to step down and that the resignation had nothing to do with the bridge closings. “This was nothing I hadn't planned already,” Christie said.

Dec. 17, 2013 – U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, asks federal transportation officials to determine what oversight the government has over the Port Authority, suggesting federal involvement for the first time.

Jan. 8, 2014 – Transportation Committee documents are made public for the first time and clearly show that Christie's top aides were responsible and that the closings were politically motivated, possibly to punish Sokolich, a Democrat, for not endorsing Christie's re-election. Christie issues a statement saying he was “misled” by staff.

Jan. 9, 2014 – Christie holds an exhaustive, 108-minute Capitol news conference, apologizes repeatedly and denies any prior knowledge of his aides' actions. He fired Kelly and blocked his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, another aide involved in the closings, from taking control of the state Republican Party.

That same day, Wildstein invokes the Fifth Amendment in front of the Transportation Committee, refusing to answer any questions.

Christie drives out to Fort Lee to apologize directly to the mayor and residents. His motorcade causes another massive traffic jam.

Sources: Press accounts and documents from the New Jersey Transportation Committee.

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